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Dare We Even Begin To Hope?

This morning, we received a letter from the Ordre des Avocats at the Cour de Toulouse, aka the Regional Law Society that is investigating the incompetence of our first and third solicitors, Maitre MA and Maitre AB, respectively.

We were very surprised to receive the response so quickly, but we are delighted! We’re not sure if the Post Office will be open tomorrow morning, as tomorrow will be a public holiday – at least, the afternoon will be a public holiday, ie All Saints Day. However, if we can’t post our response to the Ordre des Avocats tomorrow morning, we will get it off on Saturday, or Monday at the latest. In the cover letter received, we have been asked to submit any evidence we might have to further support our complaints made against Maitre MA.

Pas de problème!

When our response, with any evidence, is received by the Ordre des Avocats, a decision will be made by them regarding our complaints against Maitre MA. We don’t know for sure, but we think Maitre AB may well have already passed our file to the Ordre des Avocats.

The cover letter was accompanied by a copy of Maitre MA’s response to the complaints we have laid against him. Here’s the gist of his response.

He stated that our house Case was complicated, but he said he had collated sufficient evidence for our Grand l’Instance hearing to proceed in our favour, and he also stated that his hard work had benefited his former Cabinet (Company).

Really? We disagree.

We will provide evidence to the Ordre des Avocats proving conclusively that Maitre MA did not obtain the following witnesses’ Attestations (Statements) and documents for presenting to the Grand l’Instance Court. Without the presentation of the following Attestations and documents, vital evidence, we didn’t stand a remote chance of winning at the Grand l’Instance:

  1. The architect’s Attestation – he had offered to provide Maitre MA with the documents and Plannings drawn up in April 2007 that confirmed we would not proceed with the purchase if we could not have a lift installed in the garage to take us to the first floor. Maitre MA was given contact details, but did not contact the architect, he did not obtain the evidence and it was not presented to the Grand l’Instance Court!

  2. Madame B’s Attestation (a French neighbour) – she had offered to confirm that she translated for Tom and me when we attempted to return to the notaire, during the afternoon on the Thursday that we completed our property purchase, but she was emphatically told by the notaire’s secretary that the notaire had left the office and would be away on holiday for two weeks. Madame B had also offered to confirm that she translated for Tom and me when we returned to the notaire, two weeks later, to complain about the presence of Monsieur C in the property, also to complain that we could not have the lift installed as Monsieur C was adamant that he had sole use of the garage. Madame B could have added a lot of weight to our vice caché evidence and the fact that the notaire was not prepared to consider the facts, ie primarily, that she had been instrumental in permitting a vice caché situation. Maitre MA was given her contact details, but did not even contact Madame B, he did not obtain the evidence and it was not presented to the Grand l’Instance Court!

  3. Monsieur C’s Attestation – he had offered to provide documents to Maitre MA, ie copies of his rental contract and household insurance policy, to prove he had been an existing tenant of our sellers, Monsieur and Madame T, for a period of eight years before we purchased the property that was signed over to us as being free of constraints and for our use only. Maitre MA was given contact details, but did not even contact Monsieur C, he did not obtain the evidence and it was not presented to the Grand l’Instance Court!

  4. Copies of the medical documents we had to hand to prove that we required, as a matter of undeniable necessity, the means to traverse the property from ground to first floor without using stairs, ie the lift installation was an essential requirement by us if we were to proceed with the property purchase. Copies of the documents should have been presented with the architect’s supporting documents and Plannings to the justices at the Grand l’Instance Court hearing. We told Maitre MA (in writing) that we had the medical documents, but he advised us that he did not need to use them. Of course he did, as was proved when those documents were presented to the Cour d’Appel in Riom over a year later, after the Grand l’Instance hearing. Maitre MA did not obtain the evidence and it was not presented to the Grand l’Instance Court!

 Maitre MA admitted in his response to the Ordre des Avocats that he had been dismissed by his previous Cabinet, but he did not confirm the reason(s). He chose not to respond to our complaints about his incompetence.

In his response, Maitre MA chose to throw blame for our missing Deeds at our third avocat, Maitre AB. However, he admitted that he received the Deeds from us. Our second avocat, Maitre JJ, stated that the Deeds were not immediately found in our file when she dismissed Maitre MA and took on our Case herself, but she added that our file was very bulky and she may have missed the Deeds during her first search, she said she would look again once she had collated the new evidence (as I have given above) for Appeal presentation. Maitre JJ was admitted to hospital for emergency surgery just a few days before our Appeal was heard. Sadly, we now know she did not recover. Therefore, the Deeds are, either, still in the file, or, they were lost by Maitre MA and were never passed to our third avocat, Maitre AB – her incompetence lies in the fact that she did not return our file to us, with or without our Deeds.

We will confirm the above in our response to the Ordres des Avocats.

Maitre MA confirmed in his response that we had paid all fees in full. He denied sending us further bills for additional work that he had not done. But, copies of those extra bills are in our file (we have the originals stored at the house), ie the file that Maitre AB did not return to us when we requested. Also in our file are the letters we sent to Maitre JJ, with copies of the bills, in which we complained about being sent additional bills by Maitre MA for work that was not clarified.

I mustn’t forget, in our file, there is also copy of the coup de grace that stopped Maitre MA’s money-grabbing shenanigans and contributed to his dismissal – ie the letter we received from our second avocat, Maitre JJ, aka Maitre MA’s boss, from whom he had very recently parted company, in which she told us we were not to pay any further bills sent to us by Maitre MA.

As it appears possible that the Ordre des Avocats have now received our file from Maitre AB, we’re fairly certain they will have more than enough evidence of incompetence and lies to consider!

Are you confused? If not, can you please assist us with deciphering the text above so that we can write our response to the Ordre des Avocats? Chuckle!

We really would like to begin hoping, but, with complete honesty, I can tell you we dare not! 

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Posted by on October 31, 2013 in World

 

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One Down, One To Go – Maybe!

Three of us have just spent the lion’s share of a week a few kilometres inland from our favourite French beach, ie Saint-Georges-de-Didonne in the Charente-Maritime. We have visited just about every coastal area in France, from Brittany southward and from Nice westward, and we have yet to find a cleaner stretch of sand than the Saint-Georges beach. If anyone who is reading this has a hankering for a seaside holiday in France, I personally recommend Saint-Georges and immediate neighbour, Royan. Superb!

Our fourth family unit member, our son, was working for a wonderful couple inland, Gilly and Dave, pulling down a rather large shed! There can’t be many things that appeal more to menfolk than demolition! My other two menfolk and I slept soundly in the holiday home of yet another lovely friend, a super pal who has offered, on more than one occasion, to lobby the French judiciary by wearing a sandwich-board bearing words to the effect, ‘Justice for the Hobo Family’, whilst traipsing the main streets of Paris! This might present as being a tad unlikely to happen, but, believe me, that is not the case where this straight as a flying arrow friend is concerned!!

Anyway, during our few days of separation, an urgent request for pet/house sitters came our way, from a friend who lives on the outskirts of Civray. The super lady who contacted us, and who will remain anonymous, has much greater need than ours at this time. We still have the keys to the Gers property of our friends who live in the UK – we had only envisaged being away for 5 days, 6 days maximum with travelling, and we also needed to get to the Cantal to tackle the issue of having no French Income Tax Declaration documents, yet again! But, to reiterate, our friend’s need is more pressing than ours. So, we decided to drop off our two youngest family members to start the pet/house sit, Tom and I then planned to travel down to the Cantal to engage in this year’s inevitable battle with the bureaucrats! From there, Tom would drop me back at the pet/house sit to join our lads, and he would continue down to the Gers, returning to Civray to collect our lads and me in a couple of weeks. 

Good planning – not! Temperatures on the Atlantic coast barely crawled out of single figures; other than on the Tuesday afternoon, the weather was persistently cold and wet, biting winds chewed through our lightweight clothing, it was a really damp, icy, miserable week! The highlights were super lunches with Gilly and Dave, and with our lovely friends, Sue, Tchica and Elmo aka El Nino! At least we felt normal, not at all like hobos! In fact, all round, we were pampered – we appreciated that more than words can ever say.

Sadly, Tom’s breathing became more laboured as the days passed, and we knew he was fighting yet another severe chest infection come the day that we travelled to collect our son. Despite the many inhalers, the antibiotics, the steroids, the nebuliser that provides a limited period of time pumping oxygen into his lungs, Tom really does need better medical care and a stable lifestyle. We are so hopeful that 2012 will see an end to our years as hobos living in France. But, we fear we still have more mountains to climb before we even get a sniff of justice!

So, tomorrow, Tom will visit a local doctor and, once again, will be put back on his feet – for a little while at least, Bless him. The Cantal bureaucrats will just have to wait. Voila!

However, while we were off-line, an email came in from our friend and former neighbour, Madame ZC, I picked it up yesterday. It appears that the cadastre has been true to the word he gave in November 2010 – our hairdressing locataire (who is, and always has been, without a tenancy contract) has submitted her Notice of intention to quit our house that’s not our home!

To recap – after continuously querying the annual Tax Foncier cost, we were advised by letter sent from the Cadastral in 2010 that the property has always been, and will always be, residential only, due to it’s proximity to the village Church. The cadastre further advised us that both locataires, ie Monsieur C and the hairdresser, must find alternative accommodation/business premises, and the Cadastral would, as a matter of legal necessity, enforce that requirement.

Well, it has taken sixteen months, but, it appears that it’s now ‘one virtually down, one more to go’!

Do we envisage problems? Yes, we do, this is France! The hairdresser owes just under €4,000 for unpaid water bills. The Tresor Public has demanded that we must pay the unpaid bills, we have refused to pay; we advised the Tresor Public to cut off the water supply if the bills remained outstanding. The situation has been at a stalemate level for some considerable time.

If the hairdresser moves out of the property without paying her unpaid water rates, the onus of responsibility for payment of those unpaid bills legally falls on Tom and me – despite the fact that the hairdresser should not have been operating her business in our property, she has never had a rental lease or any kind of contract with us. We didn’t even know she existed until months after we purchased the property – the sellers, the notaire, the Immobilier, the former hairdresser, all had been aware of her impending takeover of the hairdressing business. Nobody informed us, we were told, by the Immobilier, the notaire and the original hairdresser, that the hairdressing business would be closed at the end of the 9 years commercial lease period in December 2007. We were given copy of an Attestation that confirmed what we were told. 

Madame ZC has advised us that the hairdresser actually had her Notice delivered by l’huissier (a French bailiff), a service for which she would have been required to pay. In fact, all the hairdresser needed to do was to send a Registered letter to Tom and me, and sending the letter to our house that’s not a home would have been legally considered as good enough! Tenants have virtually all the rights here in France, landlords (willing or not!) have very few rights. Certainly, a tenant who does not give Notice is very unlikely to be pursued, it is too costly in both time, effort and money!

Why has the hairdresser gone to time, trouble and expense to notify us, via l’huissier, that she is vacating? Well, we may be exhibiting classic signs of paranoia – that wouldn’t surprise me, but we honestly believe the hairdresser’s action heralds more trouble to come! I will be speaking with l’huissier tomorrow, for as long as my mobile credit lasts, after Tom has been seen by a doctor.

 

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Taxes And More Fraud

We spent all of 2010 pet/house sitting, camping around France, and fighting various battles with French tax officers and the Cadastre (Land Registry) in Aurillac. It went on throughout the year until we received a letter from a senior tax officer called Madame Regine Cosson, she is based in Mauriac (15). What a wonderful person she is, and we have much for which to thank her.

We had received an unexpected taxes foncier and d’habitation facture from the main Tresor Public in Mauriac, a facture for a total of over €3,000, relevant to the years 2008 and 2009. It was a ludicrous situation, there was no rhyme and no reason to the figures, and I immediately replied to say so. I also requested a full breakdown of the payments made by Monsieur MA, on our behalf, and of the payments made directly by the two locataires. To this day, we have never received a breakdown, not even a bottom line figure!

Every time I wrote asking for the same information, we received yet another facture – with different figures! Eventually, after receiving a third facture with different figures, I took the bull by the horns and I phoned the Tresor Public in Mauriac. I find it much easier to speak French face-to-face, and to write French, than I do to speak with a French person on the telephone. But, the situation was really getting us down. We had estimated that we were actually in advance with our property taxes, very much so because we should not have been paying taxe d’habitation.

A young man answered the phone and I managed to explain my enquiry. He asked me for my telephone number and said he would investigate and phone me back. I thought that was that, yet another Gallic Shrug! So, Tom and I decided to drive to Mauriac the following day, to sort it out over the desk. Ten minutes later, the clerk at the Mauriac Tresor Public office phoned me back! I almost collapsed with shock! Very pleasantly, he told me the local Tresor Public office, in Saignes, had clawed back everything paid since 2007 to cover an outstanding water rates bill.

It really does take an enormous shock to shake the wind out of my sails! I should think most, if not all, of my family and friends would quite happily confirm that I can, without any difficulty, talk the hind legs off a field full of donkeys! I was totally speechless! After a rather long silence, the young man seemed to think out loud, he said, “That does not look correct to me, Madame.” He then told me he would speak with his superior, Madame Cosson, but he advised me to telephone Saignes in the meantime.

Having already had several skirmishes with the Tresor Public staff in Saignes, about the hairdresser’s water rates that she refuses to pay, I decided to have a cup of tea before making the call. How British is that!

But, before I could make the call, the young man at the Mauriac office phoned me again to tell me not to worry about speaking with the Saignes staff, Madame Cosson would be writing to us, the letter would be posted by 5pm that afternoon.

Three days later, our friend, Madame ZC, phoned Tom to let us know a letter from Madame Cosson had arrived at the house in Champagnac; we arranged to travel to the village the following day to collect it. It was a long journey for us to make to collect one letter, ie ten hours round trip, but that letter started the ball rolling that would eventually lead us to the Cadastre, and to evidence of yet more fraud that had been committed by our sellers. Tax evasion.

 

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Money Flowing Like Water

Just before we headed back to the Dordogne, Tom and I travelled to Champagnac to collect our accumulated mail from our good friend and former neighbour, Madame ZC. As we pulled in outside our house that can never be our home, several neighbours were standing, chatting, in the Place de l’Eglise, they looked towards us as we left the car. Within seconds, they had all joined us and were talking ten to the dozen, shaking hands, kissing us on both cheeks, as we struggled to keep up with their excited questions. Eventually, our former next-door-but-one neighbour, Madame ML, a retired Moulin Rouge dancer who had retired many years before to the commune of her birth, Champagnac, from Paris, took control and politely asked us if we had returned to stay, and had we won our fight for justice against “the people who have treated you shamefully”. Briefly, with Madame ML translating the more complex aspects of the French language, we clarified our current position to the dozen or so villagers who were clustered around us, and who were listening intently. Each and every face dropped and they became still and silent as we spoke. Then, gently patting Tom and me on our shoulders, kissing our cheeks again, they all wished us good luck and started to walk away.

Suddenly, Madame ML, who must be in her late 80’s, possibly older, slowly walked back to us, hugged us both and told us, “You are very strong. You are strong like la résistence, you will win. Have faith in your family strength.” That was very encouraging for us, especially during the months to come!

There was a lot of mail for us to open. But, we recognised a Toulouse postmark on an envelope, and we opened that envelope first. Inside, there was a neatly worded facture (a bill) for over €4,000, the anticipated cost of the forthcoming Appeal hearing. Tom and I were stunned, we had already paid that amount towards the Appeal, to Monsieur MA months before. I telephoned Julia’s office and spoke with the office secretary, she politely advised me that Julia was in hospital but she would ask Alexandra to contact me as soon as possible, hopefully, later that same day. We were given to understand that Alexandra was our replacement avocat, in view of Julia’s severe health issues.

Somewhat reluctantly, we opened all the other envelopes – Foncier and d’Habitation property taxes, water rates, Social Charges! A total in excess of €3,500.

Water rates of over €1,000? Yes, water rates payable by the hairdresser, but the hairdresser had refused to pay for the water she used, because we would not sign her Lease Contract!

Social Charges? Yes, because our locataires were paying rent – not to us, because we refused to receive or acknowledge payment of rent, as we had been advised by Monsieur MA. The rent payments were received directly at the local Trésor Public (Council Tax Office), to pay the annual property taxes. Both rents had apparently never been increased since the late 1990’s when Madame T had initially started renting out parts of the house, so the monthly rents were, in Monsieur MA’s words, ‘Little peanuts, just enough to pay the annual taxes for the property, if they do not increase too much before your Case is resolved.’

Taxe d’Habitation? Tom was 63 years old, and we didn’t (couldn’t!) live in the property. That was apparently of no relevance, because the house was considered to be our maison secondaire (holiday home), our tent was considered to be our main home, and we were considered to be rolling in money because we had “two homes in France”! The facture was for the difference between what had been paid via rent and what the Trésor Public estimated was still owed from the previous year’s facture!

Tax Foncier? Yes, the majority of us must pay that property tax. But, the facture was for the difference between…yes, as above!

It was obvious that Monsieur MA had not done with our money as we had instructed, and entrusted, he had just banked it for himself, and for the new business venture he has since started as an avocat!

It took the lion’s share of the rest of 2009, plus all of 2010, plus the first half of 2011, to prove we did not owe the money demanded in the envelopes that we opened that day. Well, we’re still battling over the water rates facture that now stands at €1,900, and is still rising, despite Tom and I formally requesting that the water supply to the building be turned off!

 

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